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N.Korea sends high-level official to China

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- After months of ignoring Chinese warnings to give up nuclear weapons, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a high-level confidant to Beijing yesterday, in a possible effort to mend strained ties with his country's most important ally and a sign that he may be giving diplomacy a chance.

The trip by Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, the military's top political officer, is taking place as tensions ease somewhat on the Korean Peninsula after near-daily vows from Pyongyang in March and April to attack Washington and Seoul.

The United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia have been busy discussing how best to engage with the North Koreans. Japan sent an envoy to North Korea last week to discuss decades-old abductions of its citizens, a move that has drawn concern among allies of Tokyo who want denuclearization to be the focus of talks.

Choe's visit is the first this year by a top North Korean official to China, which is under pressure from the United States and others to rein in its neighbor. It's also the first since a change of leadership in Beijing, whose new leaders have demonstrated a willingness to work with Washington on North Korea. -- AP

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